Repeat after me: “I am not IMPLEMENTING ITIL®”

'...If I go to one more presentation, or read one more blog about how to “implement” ITIL I think I will scream!'

Maybe I am being pedantic or overly precious about this, but if I go to one more presentation, or read one more blog about how to “implement” ITIL I think I will scream! And that would not be a pleasant experience for me or anyone else in the surrounding area.

Please don’t get me wrong, ITIL is a fantastic tool, and one that I use on each and every assignment I undertake in service management. But that is what it is – a tool – it is a repository of really good ideas that can help you introduce best practice into the IT Service provision hub of any business. It just isn’t something that you implement.

You are what you eat

I liken this to a book on healthy eating. You buy the book and read it, you use the good advice that it contains to improve your dietary best practice. You do not implement the advice letter for letter – chances are that you just don’t like some of the foods that they are recommending, or they are not available locally. Just because you did not follow ALL the ideas contained in the book religiously, does not mean that you didn’t gain value from your investment. You picked the advice that suited your circumstances and discarded the ideas that didn’t.

There are some parts of ITIL that are non-negotiable, just as there are some parts of healthy eating advice that you really can’t ignore. You have to get the business supporting your ITSM journey, and you need to define your services, those things are essential. You must monitor what you are doing to make sure it is working and then make adjustments. But if you only want or need incident and request fulfillment management, then nobody should be telling you that you have to do problem, change and request management – or create a CMDB.

If I am trying to lose weight (and I usually am) then I need to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan, but if a recipe calls for a good helping of broad beans, then I am just going to leave them out! But I am not going to add half a pound of butter instead, as that would defeat the purpose. What I am going to do is monitor the success of the things I am doing and adjust them accordingly, if the results are not what I want and expect.

No Priorities or Prescriptions

ITIL consists of recommendations, not prescriptions. It gathers together decades of fantastic common sense, which has been constantly updated and republished to suit current thinking, technology and practices. It is just not something you implement.

I have shuddered recently on reading claims from vendors stating that their product will “automate your ITIL implementation”. You might be able to automate some ITIL based processes using software tools, but there is no “one-size-fits-all” model for this, and there is a very high chance – almost an inevitability – that if you decide to implement processes this way, you will be disappointed with the results. Certainly not all vendors are trying to market their products with these methods, there are some excellent ones out there who understand that the tools they are supplying are just that, tools that will help provide a means for you to improve the way you provide and support IT services. My advice would be that if a vendor comes to you and tells you that their tool will do it all for you…run away, and fast.

So please, USE ITIL, and other best practice advice, to create a recipe for your business that will provide the results that you are looking for. Don’t set about implementing 27 (is that the current count?) processes and functions, just because they are contained in the books. I can guarantee that you really don’t need them all.

So now, I am going to review my healthy eating process since this morning’s monitoring tells me that something I am doing currently is not working – although I have a feeling that this may relate to a major incident that occurred over the weekend involving Whittakers Peanut Slabs!

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Your ITSM Career Path

"A career in service management can be an amazing ride."

So you want to make your career in IT Service Management (ITSM).

Are you sure?

You do realize that you will be doomed to receive that glassy-eyed stare from people at social events when you are forced to admit that you work in “IT”?

The ones that don’t make some excuse to answer a phone call, go to the bathroom or get another drink, will hang around because they want to ask you how to get rid of a virus on their home PC!

Only nerds and geeks work in IT, don’t they? To be moved there from the business is some sort of cruel punishment.

Think again, within Service Management there are roles for a wide variety of skillsets, some technical, some not. A great IT Service Management team will have a good balance of both.

Entry Level ITSM

Take the normal “entry-level” service desk analyst (operator, technician or whatever your business decides to call them). In a large operation this person may only need to have a great phone manner, the ability to follow a script (although I really hate these!), listen to what the customer is saying and then log and categorize a call appropriately. They will need to be able to know the difference between a service request and an incident, hardware and software, and understand which services a customer is talking about. Most service desk tools will take care of everything else for them, assigning to the right team or agent.

The skills in a slightly smaller service desk may extend to doing simple first line resolutions such as a password reset (if you can decide whether this is an incident or a service request, there is a large group of people waiting for your answer on LinkedIn!), or other, simple repeat incidents. On a smaller, more expert, service desk you will need to pick up more technical type skills to enable a higher rate of first time call resolutions. But this should not require you to have in-depth technical IT training, just a modicum of common sense and the ability to follow instructions should do the trick.

What I would love to see is the service desk analyst role being seen as a career, not just a stepping stone, a good service desk team member is worth their weight in gold. I was a very good service desk analyst but, sadly, the salary rate for someone in that role generally stops somewhere around the “just able to survive” mark, so to get ahead personally and secure your financial future you have to get out and move on. It is time for CIOs and the like to start thinking outside the square and come up with ways to make this position more valuable, and it is possible to do this…but that is something for another article!

Business or Technical

If you are going to move out of the Service Desk arena, there are basically two ways to head. If you have more of a more technical bent, then you are most likely to head to infrastructure, network administration, database manager roles and the like. The rest of this article is probably not so much for you!

ITIL and other best practice frameworks give a multitude of career paths to choose from for people wanting to pursue a career in ITSM. At a practitioner level, larger organizations will have full-time roles for change managers, configuration manager, problem managers, incident managers…even knowledge managers (a neglected role, in my personal opinion) and other specific ITIL roles. The world really is your oyster. Smaller organizations may bundle roles together into broader service manager roles.

Get some training under your belt in the disciplines that you want to pursue career-wise. While your goal may be that elusive ITIL Expert qualification, bear in mind that it is very difficult to get an employer to fund training to that level, and I can understand why…most ITIL experts will be found working in consultancy roles, either independently, or for vendor organizations, and any employer who understands the market will know this…investing in training you to that level is, in all likelihood, going to benefit someone else. The only time I have seen an employer willing to invest in this level of training was when the person undertaking the training was also willing to sign a contract committing them to working there for a three-year period following their training. This really was a win-win situation for both parties, at the end of the three-year period the “expert” had real life experience of heading a successful ITSM improvement program, and the business had reaped huge benefits from that same program.

The Dark Side

Now we need to talk about something that practitioners may consider to be the “dark side” of the force of ITSM. Working for (shhhhh…don’t say it too loudly) a VENDOR (key in the sinister Mwah-ha-ha, or Jaws theme music!). Let it go people! Vendors deserve huge kudos in our industry…did you enjoy the last conference you attended? Do you think that could have happened without vendor community support? Do you think that itSMF, SDI, HDI or ISACA would be here if it were not for vendor sponsorship?

I will get down from my soap box now (and I don’t work for a vendor organization right now).

There are fantastic opportunities for ITSM specialists with vendor companies, think about it, you get the chance to get into a business, work with them to improve their ITSM practices and then move on to the next site. There is a great sense of achievement on offer in this sort of role. If you are at all like me, you like a challenge and this is where you can get it. Vendors generally get called in when things need to be fixed, and these are exciting times. Maybe I have a short attention span, but spending a few months with a customer, really helping them to introduce best practice into their service management is exciting and to be able to do that time and time again is exhilarating!

A career in service management can be an amazing ride. Mine has taken me around the world and allowed me to meet some amazing people, both virtually and in person. It was never a career path I had imagined in even my wildest dreams, to be honest if I had dreamed about a career in any version of an IT world I would probably have considered it a nightmare! My journey is continuing as I augment my traditional service management skills with new social technologies… I can’t wait to see where it takes me!